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As Prince Harry returns from Afghanistan, brother Prince William may take combat role

As Prince Harry returns from Afghanistan, brother Prince William may take combat role

Prince Harry was flying into Britain Saturday after 10 weeks secretly working in Afghanistan as an ordinary soldier, sharing risk and hardship with his men.
He was due to be met by his father, Prince Charles, and brother, Prince William, after he arrives on a troop transport plane at an airforce base in Oxfordshire, southern England, the Ministry of Defense said.
Harry, third in line to the throne, was withdrawn from his deployment after the once closely guarded secret became public.
"We can confirm that Prince Harry left Afghanistan earlier this evening (Friday). He is now on his way home to the United Kingdom," the ministry said in a statement released early Saturday.
Still, Harry's hopes of a long-term military career should still be boosted by his time at war _ and by the assessment of his commander, Brig. Andrew Mackey, that the prince "acquitted himself with distinction."
Harry, 23, has spoken of his desire to be an ordinary soldier and sees the military as a career. In a 2006 interview, he said he would not have gone through the rigors of officer training at Sandhurst military academy only to "sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country."
The defense ministry said Saturday that Harry's elder brother, Prince William _ second in line to the British throne _ is also likely to serve overseas with the military, probably on board a Royal Navy battleship.
Officials said he could be deployed later this year on a tour to areas including the South Atlantic, the Persian Gulf, Pacific Ocean or the West Indies.
"It's our intention to give Prince William a full a taste of life in the Royal Navy as possible," a Navy spokesman said, on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy.
Although Harry's deployment ended prematurely, military analysts said it would nonetheless help his army career by allowing him to hold his head high among his comrades.
"It will set him apart from the people who haven't been on active service," said Charles Heyman, author of guidebooks to the British military. "That's the most important thing for a soldier."
The prince's deployment had gone undisclosed under an agreement between the Ministry of Defense and major news organizations designed to protect Harry and his fellow soldiers.
An Australian women's magazine reported on Harry's deployment last month, but that report received little attention. When the news was posted on the Drudge Report Web site on Thursday, the dam burst.
The Ministry of Defense said Friday that worldwide media coverage of Harry's posting could have risked his and his colleagues' safety had the prince been allowed to stay in Afghanistan. It said Harry had been due to return "in a matter of weeks" before the news broke.
Media outlets were granted a series of interviews and allowed to take photos and video images of the prince, all to be distributed on a pool basis and used on his return. That material was released after the story leaked out.
Society of Editors director Bob Satchwell, who helped broker the media deal, said the arrangement should not be looked at as precedent-setting.
"But on the other hand, you should never say never," he said. "It worked for a significant time, and it allowed Prince Harry to be deployed."
Harry's work in Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province involved calling in airstrikes on Taliban positions, as well as foot patrols. He spent part of his deployment at a base 500 yards from Taliban positions.
Conditions were primitive and dangerous, but Harry said the posting offered him a rare sort of freedom.
"I think this is about as normal as I'm ever going to get," Harry said while serving at a dusty outpost called Forward Operating Base Delhi.
"It's bizarre," he reflected. "I'm out here now, haven't really had a shower for four days, haven't washed my clothes for a week and everything seems completely normal. It's nice just to be here with all the guys and just mucking in as one of the lads."
Harry joked in Afghanistan that he was a "bullet magnet," a prized target for insurgents. A plan to send him to Iraq last year was canceled after British intelligence learned of threats by militants to kill him. The head of the army, Gen. Richard Dannatt, said at the time that intense media coverage of the planned deployment had made the situation worse.
Many of Harry's royal forebears have also seen combat _ most recently his uncle, Prince Andrew, who flew Royal Navy helicopters during the 1982 Falklands War. Harry's grandfather Prince Philip served on Royal Navy battleships during World War II.
In those days, a combination of press deference, military censorship and slower-moving technology helped keep details of military operations under wraps. Times have changed _ as Harry himself knows well.
Back home in Britain, the prince is stalked by the press. His trips to London nightclubs and his occasional gaffes _ like wearing an armband with a Nazi emblem to a costume party _ are captured by paparazzi and beamed around the world.
Analysts say the combination of Harry's celebrity status, an insatiable media and an age of instant communication makes it unlikely the prince _ or anyone else with a similar profile _ will serve on the front lines again.
"We live in a crazed celebrity-reporting world," said Adam Holloway, a Conservative Party lawmaker who sits on the British parliament's defense committee. "It's pretty miraculous that he managed 10 weeks."


Updated : 2021-06-20 19:09 GMT+08:00